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COVID-19 PPE - Face coverings

Updated: Jun 10, 2020

This information is taken from guidance and adapted to how it will be applied by PBSC.

PPE (personal protective equipment) protects the user against health or safety risks at work. It can include items such as safety helmets, gloves, eye protection, high-visibility clothing, safety footwear and safety harnesses. It also includes respiratory protective equipment, such as face masks. A face mask is different to a face covering.

When managing the risk of COVID-19, additional PPE beyond what we usually wear is not beneficial. This is because COVID-19 is a different type of risk to the risks we normally face in the buildings that we visit, and so the COVID-19 risk needs to be managed through social distancing, hygiene and fixed teams or partnering, not through the use of PPE.

Precautionary use of extra PPE to protect against COVID-19 outside clinical settings is not encouraged. PPE supplies are best left for those that do need it. Our risk assessments reflect the fact that the role of PPE in providing additional protection is extremely limited in the environments and buildings that we will be visiting and the people we are expecting to meet.

Face coverings

There are some circumstances when wearing a face covering may be marginally beneficial as a precautionary measure. The evidence suggests that wearing a face covering does not protect the wearer, but it may protect others if the person wearing a face covering is infected but have not developed symptoms.

Before visiting any home or other building then we will agree with the occupant or homeowner whether they and we will wear face coverings in relation to concerns about COVID-19.

A face covering can be very simple and may be worn in enclosed spaces where social distancing isn’t possible. It just needs to cover the mouth and nose. It is not the same as a face mask (such as the surgical masks or respirators used by health and care workers).

Similarly, face coverings are not the same as the PPE used to manage risks like dust and spray in an industrial context. Supplies of PPE, including face masks, must continue to be reserved for those who need them to protect against risks in their workplace, such as health and care workers, and those in industrial settings like those exposed to dust hazards. Surveyors may be exposed to dust and risks in parts of some residential buildings (such as loft spaces) and therefore 'surveying' grade masks may be used at those times, as normal.

It is important to know that the evidence of the benefit of using a face covering to protect others is weak and the effect is likely to be small, therefore face coverings are not a replacement for the other ways of managing risk, including minimising time spent in contact and increasing hand and surface washing.

These other measures remain the best ways of managing risk in the workplace and government would therefore not expect to see us relying on face coverings as risk management for the purpose of health and safety assessments.

Wearing a face covering is optional and is not required by law, including in the workplace. If the Surveyor chooses to wear one or an occupant or homeowner wishes us to, then it is important that we use face coverings properly and wash hands before putting them on and taking them off. The following good practice is

  • wash hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser before putting a face covering on, and after removing it

  • when wearing a face covering, avoid touching the face or face covering, as that could contaminate them with germs from the hands

  • change the face covering if it becomes damp or if it has been touched

  • continue to wash hands regularly

  • change and wash the face covering daily

  • if the material is washable, wash in line with manufacturer’s instructions. If it’s not washable, dispose of it carefully in the usual waste

  • practise social distancing wherever possible

You can make face-coverings at home and can find guidance on how to do this and use them safely on GOV.UK.

This is not intended to replicate the full advice of just that which applies to us. Please refer to the original guidance from the Government for everything that might be applicable to others and their particular circumstances.


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